Health Coalition statement & update on the fightback
When the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) warned last spring leading into the provincial government election that Doug Ford’s government was planning to privatize surgeries and diagnostic services, Ford repeatedly denied that was his plan. However, Bill 60, the Ford government’s hospital privatization legislation has now passed into law this week.
With no mandate from Ontarians, the government is moving to cut core elective services including surgeries and diagnostics out of our public hospitals – and transfer them to private for-profit hospitals and clinics.
Initially, they plan to move 14,000 cataract surgeries to new private day hospitals that they want to have up and running by next fall. The government has already announced repeated rounds of tens of millions of dollars for private clinics, even while underspending on public health care and failing to plan to meet population need for care. They have announced that they plan to privatize hip and knee surgeries by 2024.
This will create 2-tier health care in Ontario in which patients will be faced with an increasing array of user charges and extra-billing for care when they are sick, elderly, in need and least able to pay.
This is why, over a century people in communities across Ontario funded and built their local public hospitals, and our provincial government responded 70 years ago by creating a public hospital system in the first place. It is also one of the reasons that private hospitals have been banned since 1973.
Bill 60 not only privatizes our core public hospital services, it also privatizes the oversight of the private clinics and deregulates health care staffing, including who can call themselves a doctor, a surgeon, a nurse, an MRI technologist, a respiratory therapist and more.
A large group of health coalition members were joined by Erin Ariss, Ontario Nurses’ Association president, and Michael Hurley, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE president, who, along with OHC executive director Natalie Mehra spoke at a press conference organized by the NDP then went into the Legislature to witness the vote.
In the Legislature the Opposition parties repeatedly raised examples of constituents who are already being illegally charged for services at private clinics. The Health Minister did not attend Question Period and left responses to her parliamentary assistant Robin Martin, MPP, who simply kept repeating the government’s PR lines about clearing the surgical backlogs.
At no point did the government answer for the fact that Ontario already has operating rooms in every public hospital that we have paid for but are sitting idle every evening and weekend due to underfunding and staffing. (Ontario funds its public hospitals at the lowest rate in Canada.)
In a moment reminiscent of Donald Trump’s bombast, Doug Ford actually claimed “no one has done more” than his government to improve access to care. (his government repeatedly cites $800 million given to hospitals: but that is the total over four years – including the pandemic – much of it funded by the federal government.
In addition, this government has actually imposed wage caps and worsened what have become unprecedented staffing shortages for nurses, health professionals and doctors exhausted and burned out by working all-out through the entire pandemic.
While the staffing crisis has intensified, and dozens of local hospital emergency departments are facing repeated closures as a result, the government has chosen to underspend COVID funding by billions and is underspent on health care every year. while overspending the budget on private clinics.
Premier Ford and his MPPs continue to claim that Ontarians will always be able to pay with their OHIP [The Ontario Health Insurance Plan, the government-run health insurance plan for Ontarians] card, and not their credit card. But a new report today by Global TV shows that private clinics already are billing patients thousands of dollars in illegal user fees every year.
As the government knows very well, the history of private for-profit clinics in Canada shows the OHIP card claim is not the case, and research done by the Ontario Health Coalition and with the Globe and Mail proves it.
Despite the evidence, and despite the unanimous opposition of the opposition parties in the Legislature, the Ford government voted down every single amendment, and yesterday, they used their majority to vote to pass the Bill.
Natalie Mehra, OHC’s Executive Director said:
“Along with virtually all Ontarians, we are unalterably opposed to the privatization of our hospitals and this legislation. The passage of Bill 60 is not the end. It is the beginning. We will mount the biggest fightback this province has ever seen to save our local public hospitals.
“Millions of people of every political stripe in our communities have spent a hundred years or more building our system of local public hospitals. They do not belong to Mr. Ford to dismantle and give away to health care profiteers.”
The Ontario Health Coalition, backed by local Health Coalitions across the enormous province, is building a province wide community-run referendum campaign to stop what is the most undemocratic attack on our public healthcare in memory.
Health Coalitions are organizing voting stations outside grocery stores, local corner stores, coffee shops, at Legions and community centres and in every busy part of our communities that we can. On Friday May 26 and Saturday May 27 we will hold the referendum. More than a thousand voting stations will be open across Ontario.
Leading in, throughout the month of May, online voting will be available on the main website PublicHospitalVote.ca and workplace votes will take place.
Ontarians will be asked to vote on the question: Do you want our public hospital services to be privatized to for profit hospitals and clinics? Yes or No.
Download OHC’s referendum leaflet HERE.
Referendum Campaign Timeline
April 18, 10 a.m. Referendum launched by Press conferences across Ontario.
May 2, 10 a.m. Press conferences across Ontario released list of voting stations. Online voting commenced.
May 8 – 19 – Workplace votes
Friday May 26 – Saturday May 27 – Referendum Street Votes across Ontario
May 28 – Hard deadline to get voting totals reported to Ontario Health Coalition
May 30 – 10 a.m. Press Conferences across Ontario to announce results
May 31 – 12 – 1 p.m. Delivery of ballots to Provincial parliament in Queen’s Park, Toronto.
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